The life of legendary lawman Bass Reeves will be commemorated Saturday at Three Forks Museum.

One of the most famous lawmen of his era in the region will be compared and contrasted to modern law enforcement techniques, with the Muskogee Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Service planning demonstrations and public awareness activities.

Reeves, a former slave and Civil War soldier, was the first black U.S. Marshal’s Service deputy on the Western Frontier. He served 32 years with the Marshal’s Service under Judge Isaac Parker in Fort Smith, Ark., before Oklahoma’s statehood.

In 1907, Reeves joined the Muskogee Police Department, where he served two years. During his tenure on the force, not one crime occurred in the district he patrolled.

Art Burton, noted historian, author and Muskogee native, will present a lecture and sign copies of his recent book, “Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves.”

Reeves was a master of disguises, historians say, and was quite skillful at taming what at that time was considered to be one of most lawless places in the country: Indian Territory.

Linda Moore, Three Rivers Museum’s executive director, said Reeves earned a lot of respect for his work as a lawman in these parts, even earning special recognition upon his death in 1910.

“They even published his obituary in the (Muskogee) Phoenix,” Moore said. “It was unusual for anything to be published about blacks back then, but several articles were written about him because he was so well-known.”

Part of the obituary was reprinted on Reeves’ tombstone:

“Absolutely fearless and knowing no master but duty ... the placing of a writ in his hands for service meant that the letter of the law would be fulfilled.”

The tombstone is on display at the museum.

“They had it made but found out later that nobody knew where he (Reeves) was buried,” Moore said.

Muskogee Police Public Information Officer Brad Holt said the department’s Special Operations Team will be on hand to visit with those in attendance and answer questions about experiences as a member of the team and to display the special operations van used during tactical response situations.

Also on hand will be canine teams, the mounted patrol and Muskogee Heat, a drag car built and raced by Officer Lincoln Anderson. Demonstrations will be scheduled throughout the morning.

Holt also said applications will be taken for enrollment in the Citizens Police Academy. The academy provides an opportunity for those who are interested in law enforcement to attend and receive training in the operation of the police department.

According to Holt, graduates of the 13-week program have the opportunity to join the Muskogee Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.

“This is a very important program for the department and the residents of this city,” Holt said. “Members have proven to be a valuable asset to the department.”

Moore said after a box luncheon is served, a caravan tour will travel through parts of the city where Reeves patrolled while working as a law enforcer before his death.

Reach D.E. Smoot at 684-2903 or

React to this story:


Trending Video